Dimensional Innovations, a Kansas City-based sign design and fabrication firm, recently acquired a $2.2 million Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) 3D printer by Thermwood. The giant 3D printer—the largest in Kansas City—has a build capacity of 10 x 20 x 5 feet (~3 x 6 x 1.5 meters).
Equipped with a five-axis router, the LSAM machine is capable of printing large-scale objects and parts from reinforced thermoplastic composite materials. There are only a handful of units that have been deployed in the U.S. by Thermwood—one of which is now operational in Kansas City. (Automotive manufacturer Local Motors installed an LSAM system last year.)
“Within the design, architecture and construction space, we’re not aware of anyone else who has this capability,” said Tucker Trotter, Dimensional Innovations CEO. “There is not really someone else we can look to for examples on how to use this equipment, so we’re going to have to define that. It puts pressure on our team because there aren’t answers yet, but it also opens up incredible opportunities.”
At this stage, the reason for the LSAM purchase has not been disclosed, but Dimensional Innovations said it was made to fulfill a need for a secret project. All we know is that the project requires the production of a large-scale “iconic element” whose weight is limited and that needs to be prefabricated and assembled on site. The mystery object also has to meet wind load and fire-proofing requirements. While we could speculate on what the top secret project is, I’d rather wait to be surprised!
“I went into the discussion for this project thinking it was really not a good fit for us,” Trotter said. “I couldn’t see how we could do it. But the culture at DI is so cool that we had people here who didn’t take no for an answer and spoke up saying they thought we could do it and here’s how. It started as a crazy idea, but now that we’ve got this equipment, I think it’s really going to advance who we are and how we’re seen by a lot of people.”
The LSAM system developed by Thermwood prints large-scale parts by using a large bead printed at room temperature. This approach (rather than using a small bead in a heated environment) enables a continuous cooling process. The technique also integrates a temperature-controlled compression wheels that forms the thermoplastic as it is extruded into a flattened bead that fuses with the underlying layer.
Dimensional Innovations recently expanded its operations and facility, moving its sign fabrication business to a larger location in Lenexa, KS. The new headquarters will house the massive LSAM 3D printer as well as 50 new offices for more designers and sales people to occupy. The company has also started to expand into other cities across the U.S., including in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Los Angeles.